22 Jun 2018

Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius) - The Vulcan Ship's Counselor

Back in February, I tried creating a character using Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius.  The character was fairly straightforward, a Vulcan engineer, something one would expect on a Starfleet vessel.  Standard types only scratch the surface, though.  To really test a game, I want to see if an odd combination is still possible.  Today, I present a Vulcan ship's counselor.

The concept is odd, I'll grant that.  Vulcans aren't known for being all warm and fuzzy.  They shun emotions.  Some go through the kolinahr rite to purge the last traces of emotion.  Yet, the various Star Trek series have shown Vulcans use an emotional logic of sorts.  They tend to rationalize the decision as being logical.  Still, the series have shown Sarek with Human wives and protecting his son.  Why not have a Vulcan character who wants to learn how other species deal with emotions?  If reunification with the Romulans does happen, Vulcan society will have to adjust to take into account that there will be newcomers who don't have the control culture expects.

The life path character creation system should help here.  The seven steps, eight if deciding on a concept, help flesh out the player character.  I have the concept worked out, and that determines the era as during Star Trek: TNG or later.  All the attributes start at 7; all the disciplines start at 1.  After the break, one Vulcan psychologist.

21 Jun 2018

NaNo 2018 - Contenders

November 1st is just over four months away.  NaNoWriMo is coming up.  Heck, Camp NaNo begins July 1st, though I'm not participating this time around.  Four months isn't a lot of time.  I should start figuring out what to do so I don't start an epic fantasy with zero world building again.  I do have some contenders.

As always, the time-travellering kaiju hunters are on the list.  I'll have to figure out a few time periods for the /kaiju/ hunters to visit, with the legend of St. George and the dragon being a potential arc.  I do have a couple of laws of time travel in mind.  First, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; the hunters can know either when or where they're going but not both.  The other law is a modification of Newton's First Law, temporal events will happen as they did unless acted upon by an outside force.  It's not that events are predestined; everyone involved will still make decisions based on their experience.  However, if an outside force interferes, a participant may make new decisions based on the new information.

Speaking of time travel, I have an idea for Subject 13 guest starring Pixie and the rest of the Youth Brigade.  A battle against a supervillain winds up sending the group back to the 50s, where they have to figure out where they are and how to get home.  I have some dialogue in mind, too.  "Can you stop swearing for five minutes?  That's how we got into this mess!"  I've done some preliminary research, finding a USGC map of the area I want to use from 1956 and matching the location on Google Maps.

A while back, I created Demona using the Demon Hunters RPG.  I then realized she had potential as part of a group of supernatural hunters.  Format might be a fake reality series, but I'm not married to that.  I do have the first bit worked out in my head where Demona meets her new partners, Nadia and Ian.

Mecha Academy is a possibility.  I'll probably keep it on reserve for when another idea runs out of steam.  I am working on the next arc, but there is more planned for after it.  The cast hasn't even finished their first year yet, and I have a few more things to toss at them before I'm done with them.

Unruly is also in the works.  I have twists and turns for them, too.  Laura has to go testify, Fawna needs to give up her body for a weekend to Mags, Caitlin needs to plot, and chaos needs to ensue.  Again, if another project runs dry, I can always switch over.

The Shadowrun stories are still coming together.  Yes, stories.  Beside coming up with a story to be adapted into a new form, mostly as an experiment related to Lost in Translation, I want to try a horror story.  Problem is, I'm not a fan of horror, so the project might be doomed to failure from the start.  However, Shadowrun mixes cyberpunk, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy together, so with a bit of a tweak, I might be able to turn the urban fantasy elements into horror.  There are horror elements lurking in the game's setting that I can exploit, too.

So, short list, and one that could grow before I start striking off ideas.  It's a start.  I have four months.

Friday, another go at the Modiphius Star Trek Adventures character creation.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Truly Outrageous!"
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week; this past week has been hectic.

15 Jun 2018

Creating Characters for Conventions

During the Victoria Day long weekend, I was at CanGames.  I've talked about what I did at the con before.  I only played games there, I didn't run anything, not having been able to get a couple of ideas to congeal.  Despite that, I created thirty-two characters for the weekend; thirty-four if I include the ones I played in Headspace and 5 Across the Heart.  How?

I had two friends ask me to create characters for some of their games.  Creating characters for use at a gaming convention is different from creating a character for me to play.  What I look for in a character I'm going to play for a campaign doesn't hold up for a four hour slot.  Potential players need a character that they can get on first reading, can do something in any potential scene in the game, and be effective.  I don't have a problem being deficient somewhere while gaming with friends.  At a con, I want to participate.

The first step is to find out what the GMs want.  This includes finding out the game system, learning it if needed, and get a rough idea of the general plot.  A dungeon delve means getting a balance of character types while science fiction exploration requires a team of specialists.  Next, read the character creation rules and see how everything meshes.  The goal is to make sure every character can do something in a fight and while investigating.  A healer is always welcome in an adventuring party, but the healer`s player needs to do something more than just wait for another character to be injured.  Once that`s done, create the characters.  This could take several hours or days, so spread the work out.  If there are form-fillable character sheets, use those for the authentic feel; otherwise, create a blank sheet that can be reused and be easily read.  Finally, pass the characters to the GM and make sure things are good with them.  Fix up any problems found, then sit back and relax.

The core of the work is creating the characters.  Again, potential players need to be able to read the sheet and get a good idea of what the character can do.  This means including what special abilities do.  I want to avoid having players look up details in the middle of the action.  Spells get included here; the less flipping pages, the better.  Character sheets should be no more than one double-sided page.  Two pages are acceptable for more complex character builds, but any more than that depends on the game.

The characters should be distinct from each other.  Even if there are three warrior-types, each of them should have a unique flavour.  With warriors, that can be done just by the style of fighting used, whether a weilder of two-weapons, a two-handed barbarian, or a martial artist.  Same thing goes with spellcasters.  Science fiction tends to have a different mix of character types, but the same principle applies.  Characters need to be unique.

Time for examples.  I`ll use two games that I created characters for use during CanGames.  The first is for Green Ronin's Fantasy Age with the Titansgrave expansion, the other is for the out of print Last Unicorn's Star Trek Roleplaying Game.  I won't go through each character - that's a total of seventeen between the two games combined - but I'll show the process is working out what I did for each character.

With Fantasy Age, the GM wanted somewhat powerful characters, starting at eighth level, and a good selection.  I went with three of each class, warrior, rogue, and mage, and took a look ahead at what sort of specialities, like Assassin or Elementalist, were available so I could aim for that type of character.  With the warriors, I made sure that each one had a different fighting style; one was sword-and-shield, another was a two-handed weapon user, the third used blasters with the ability to fight with just a single weapon.  The rogues were differentiated by what they could do; one was a thief, another a scout, the third a two-weapon duellist.  The mages broke down as an elementalist, a healer, and a swashbucklet.  I also managed to use all the races available in the setting while also having a human in each class.  A player deciding between the Orc Assassin and the Gnome Mage Hunter can see the difference right away even without knowing how the mechanics work.

Creating characters for Star Trek started differently.  The GM needed the crew of a small scout ship, so I worked out what positions were needed based on the layout of the Enterprise's bridge.  I counted each position - Captain, First Officer, Helmsman, Navigator, Communications Officer, Science Officer, Engineer - then added Medical Officer and Security since they normally don't sit on the bridge.  I doubled up First Officer with another position; the ship is far too small to break have a second-in-command who only has that job.  Fortunately, Star Trek provides a precedent with Spock, who was both First Officer and Chief Science Officer on the /Enterprise/.  From there, I worked out what mix of species would be interesting.  While tempted to have a Tellarite Communications Officer, I went with Human there.  I did put in some of the classic species from the original series, including Vulcan, Centauran, and Tellarite.  The GM requested a Caitian as from the animated series, so I added one.  The results were a young command staff which is what the GM wanted.

Cons have their own requirements when creating characters.  The goal is to have characters players will have fun playing, not just me.  A different thought process goes into the creation.


Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Batman, the 1943 serial.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, "Truly Outrageous!"

8 Jun 2018

Cortex+ - The Knight Industries Two Thousand

I recently re-watched the original Knight Rider.  I wanted something neutral to watch after analysing not one but two adaptations of The Mummy.  Something that's a bit of fluff helps to clear my head in between reviews.

While watching Knight Rider, though, I realized that KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, is a player character.  It's odd, because the repeated tag line for the show is, "One man can make a difference."  Said one man, Michael Knight, can, but he has KITT, Devon, and Bonnie helping.  So, one man can make a difference, if he has support.

7 Jun 2018

Commentary Hiatus

With the pause in fiction, the commentary will go on hiatus for a bit.  I may post a few ideas for NaNoWriMo later this year until I can get the next Mecha Academy arc completed.

Tomorrow, gaming content featuring the Knight Industries Two Thousand.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Miami Vice.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Batman (1943).

1 Jun 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Commentary

The end of the second arc came fast.  There wasn't a way to prolong it.  That happens.  Better that it ends sooner than later, especially in a serial format.  "By Your Leave" was about the cast away from the Academy.  Returning to the school meant that the end was coming.

There's an adage in tabletop RPGs meant for the GM - Don't Split the Party.  When the party splits up, that means there are two or more groups getting into trouble.  One group takes the spotlight while the others wait.  In writing, that's not a problem, at least for the writer.  For the reader, though, that may mean waiting for a preferred character's spotlight to return.  The parallel plot lines need to balance out.  However, four characters, six including Susanna and Abby, leads to a lot of interaction and dislogue.  A lone character has to get introspective or very busy to keep up.  I could have separated the groups into their own episodes, but that wasn't the goal.  I wanted to show the difference between Dusty and her roommates.

The last chapter of the episode sets up the next arc.  The conflict between Dusty and Rhiannon can't go on much longer without breaking the suspension of disbelief.  At some point, Rhiannon will have enough of the traitor and lash out.  Or Rhiannon will get to know Dusty.  Or Rhiannon will get Dusty expelled for her piece of mind.  They have a working agreement, but from necessity.  The end of the episode starts getting the potential for an external conflict set up.  At this point, there should be questions in readers' heads on why Rhiannon and Dusty are in the same squad.

Which leads to the next issue.  Episode 3 isn't ready yet.  Unlike The Soul Blade and The Devil You Know, the next episode of Mecha Academy isn't far enough along to start posting and hope I can catch up before I run out of buffer.  I only have three chapters done.  Until recently, I didn't know where the chapter was going beyond changing the nature of the conflict.  Commander Haag has been waiting for his queue to enter a scene since last November.  Now that I've figured out where I'm going, I can continue.

What does that mean for the Friday fiction slot?  I'm going to switch over to gaming content for a bit.  The commentary may disappear, or it may get replaced by NaNoWriMo thoughts and concepts.  I hope the change isn't for long.  Writing is relaxing, which surprises me.

Thanks for reading!

31 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 5 Commentary

A conversation about team work, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 5.

What can the squad do about Dusty?  Three requests to have her move out have failed.  Rhiannon has good reasons to loathe the woman, and Miyami is sympathetic to the loathing.  Ric has a good point, though.  The instructors are marking on ability, including the ability to work as a squad.  Everyone else got shaken up.  Not this squad.  Ric is right; they should have an advantage.  Thus the beginning of turning the conflict from intra-squad to inter-squad.

Since the cast are supposed to be at an academy, I had to figure out what they'd major in.  Once again, I turned to the Royal Military College in Kingston to see what they had.  The usual degrees were there - Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering - but there was one extra, a Bachelor of Military Arts and Science.  Armed with this knowledge, it was time to work out which character was studying what.  There's a core set of courses, but each character has a different interest.

Rhiannon major is Mathematics with a minor in Political Science.  Her major was chosen after looking at the different offerings and selecting something she might enjoy.  The minor is related to her future position, when she inherits her parents' titles.  She wants to be on top of her duties when she has to take over the roles.  Dusty is going for the Bachelor of Military Arts and Science with no minor; she's wants to focus on her goal.  Miyami is aiming for a B.Eng in civil engineering, so may not have time for a minor.  Engineering really doesn't leave much time for anything else to be studied, unless the student wants to graduate much later than expected.  Lars is majoring in History; he's hoping to make the Guard a career but isn't aiming for higher ranks yet like Dusty is.  Ric, well, he hasn't decided.  So many options.

The squads get renamed.  It's a change from before the key test, a more permanent arrangement, at least for the school year.  With new squads come new squad leaders.  Prior to the obstacle course, the Academy left it up to the squads to work out who was the leader.  Now, the school decides, based on what has been seen.  Except, maybe not.  Ric has demonstrated the ability to take the lead when needed.  Rhiannon got the nod.  The position will rotate, but right now, Rhiannon suspects that something more than her skill is the reason why she got to be leader.  Dusty isn't going to let her forget, either.

Dusty gets two more insults in.  Her last line, "By your command, Imperious Leader[,]" comes from the original Battlestar Galactica.  I gave myself a challenge when writing up interactions between Dusty and Rhiannon - Dusty was not going to reuse an insult when addressing Rhiannon.  The list so far:

  •  Your Highness
  •  Your Queenship
  •  Your Exaltedness
  •  Your Majesticness
  •  Her Imperialness
  •  Princess
  •  Your Ladyship
  •  O Mighty Mistress
  •  Imperious Leader

Nine digs.  Considering that the pair didn't spend much time together is his arc and actively avoided each other throughout, that's not bad.  I have five more coming in the next arc, whenever that comes.

This arc was short.  I realized that I had covered everything I needed to for this arc, setting up a few plot lines for the future and giving the characters a chance to breathe without being under constant tension.  The internal conflict needs to end somewhere, so the move to bring the squad into a more coherent form has to start somewhere.  The next arc will go into the idea more, which is where it stalled out back in November 2017.

Friday, the future of Mecha Academy.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Mummy (2017).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Miami Vice.